By Mohamed Kassim Abd Rahman
Let me write on some issues which I find other Singaporeans and the government need to review with regards to our recently announced Budget 2013.
Singapore Budget 2013: Flawed to allocate benefits based on housing type.
The Current Budget 2013 as announced by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam again uses the type of Housing/Flats one lives in (assets Singaporeans own) to determine and handout due benefits for households and middle/lower income Singaporeans as part of Budget Initiative. This in my opinion is flawed.
To understand the flaws better, let us look at some examples based on this approach of distributing needy funds and benefits based on type of housing one resides in.
1) If we look at Dr Koh Poh Koon, a former losing PAP MP Candidate who stood in Punggol East SMC elections recently; he and his wife earn dual incomes at the highest income brackey for himself as a private sector Colorectal Surgeon in a Top Private Hospital Practice. He lives in a 4 room HDB flat in Toa Payoh as he mentioned during elections and has 2 cars.
2) Recently appointed Speaker of Parliament, Madam Halimah Yacob earns top salary as a Speaker of Parliament and MP at ministerial super scale level and yet she was publicized in media as still living humbly in a 5 room HDB flat with her family. Not sure on other members of her family as they could also be earning incomes too.
3) A Singaporean Or PR who owns and rents out her private property-say Condo or landed can still reside in a HDB flat either 4,5 or more rooms -Types that she or he owns and yet gain from rental income and yields as common in Singapore too. Yet we also do not look into the number of cars she/he could own too.
4) On the down side, a struggling cleaner or normal worker in a F&B outlet , or a retrenched worker can live in a 4 room flat which he or she owns or bought years ago and yet live hand to mouth struggling in poverty (there are many such cases too).
So using the type of household or property like 3,4,5 rooms flats (assets)as a yardstick or a measure to dole out Budget benefits and schemes to the public is totally flawed as households could be earning a lot more or owning 3 0r 4 luxury cars :but still living it up in Public Housing-HDB Flats.
Real incomes and total incomes of households could prove to be a fairer measure and a better tool when evaluating the Budget 2013’s redistribution programmes to help Singapore households and Singaporeans.
Note: For public housing HDB applications MND and HDB uses similar household or applicants’ total income for consideration in approving if they are qualified as within the allocated income ceiling allocated for purchasing Public Housing flats, even in a tweeked EC applications so to be fair to the right and qualified applicants as per Public Housing Policy. So why not use proper total incomes of the household when doling out benefits here when government and it’s relevant agencies have all the data and updated information from IRAS and other filings by Singaporeans in total.
Why this flaw should be addressed?
As mentioned earlier many households could be asset rich and yet cash poor; even worse, struggling in structured poverty and living hand to mouth in silence esp. those retrenched or seeking employment in today’s inflation and tough job market. Not everyone is aware of the many Government schemes and assistance programmes in such situations as programmes are too tight down in bureaucracy and complicated applications, lack of information and most importantly there are many who out of shame and pride struggle in their bleak situation.
Drilling down in the above examples, the focus is the ones who could be left out with the rightful benefits and funds in this distribution exercise especially,(say , temporarily retrenched) or earning less than $1000 per month (say, doing temporary jobs after being retrenched from a previous high paying PMET job from a MNC as such cases are increasing in actual numbers).
Again this is a not new issue as has been raised before and yet the Singapore Government continues to use current outdated and flawed measure and method to allocate budget benefits as in the recent Budget 2013 announcement.
I believe the Government should therefore use a fairer and equitable approach to re-distribute needy funds in sincerity.